My invitation to ravelry recently arrived! I was so excited. Which was funny because I really had no idea what it was, other than that in the world of knitters and crocheter, anyone who was anyone was a part of ravelry! Once I heard that, I had to ask for an invitation. And then I had to wait...but only a couple days.

It's actually really cool. It has tons of pictures of projects with information about the pattern and what yarn they used. Which is good, because I used to just randomly search from blog to blog for cool thing that I don't yet have the ability to knit but might someday. I would look for things I do have the ability to knit, but right now that is squares. And I don't really need a fancy pattern for that.

But anyway, if you like to do things with yarn and somehow haven't heard of ravelry, check it out. And if you want to find me, I'm BRCMacKenzie. But I don't have anything posted, so that doesn't mean much.


Dual Allegiance

Like schoolchildren across the country, Texan kids say the Pledge of Allegiance each morning. But then, they say another pledge, to the Texas flag. It goes something like this:
Honor the Texas flag; I pledge allegiance to thee, Texas, one state under God, one and indivisible.
This is no surprise to you Texan readers, but those of you from elsewhere might be amused by this, like I was. Although if I had to guess which state had its own pledge, I'd have guessed Texas. Do you know of any other states that have their own pledge? That they use?

Adding A New Reader

Congratulations to our blog friends "Mr. and Mrs. Aggie" on the birth of their child yesterday (on Jackson Pollock's birthday, no less. By the way, I don't get him. I mean, he dripped paint on canvas. Wikipedia says "skeptics claim the painting looks like something out of an early elementary school art class." I concur).

Anyway, congrats again.


The Closet

Last weekend was our first since classes resumed for Craig so I had to re-learn to entertain myself on the weekends while he secluded himself for some studying. I had planned to watch the BBC production of Middlemarch on Netflix via instant download but the sound was about 30 seconds off from the video and I just couldn't handle it. That left me watching the HGTV while I knitted which had the very unfortunate effect of infecting me with "redecoratitis." If you are a woman, I am sure you have experience it yourself - that super strong urge to move furniture around. This is not always a bad thing, sometimes it is nice to switch things up but our apartment is small. The furniture only fits one way. So I pushed those feelings out of my head and proceeded to busy myself with bread baking and soup making.

Then Monday night, I discovered that my infection hadn't gone away, it had merely mutated into "possessiona bulimia" I had to organize, sort, purge - if I didn't, I knew I would explode.

I'm not really sure what brought it on. It could be that we gained some items over Christmas and didn't get rid of anything. It could be that our bedroom is currently holding items to take to my brothers (guitar, computer and monitor, and bag of random junk valuables) that are taking up space. It could be that our recyclable containers (also in our bedroom) are overflowing and I wanted to take my "decor anger" out on them but couldn't. It could also be, and probably is, just do the fact that I am a woman and experienced a whim.

So Craig and I took our "7-9" time and went through our closet. When I say "our closet," I don't just mean the closet it our bedroom. I mean our one and only closet. It currently holds:
  • camping supplies, including a tent and two sleeping bags
  • my craft supplies and sewing machine
  • suitcases
  • Craig's emergency supplies
  • Craig's genealogy stuff
  • our scrapbooking/picture stuff
  • cat crate
  • extra linens
  • christmas stuff
  • vacuum
Oh, and don't forget our clothes. Both our current clothes, our summer clothes and all the winter stuff that we have but don't need it Texas. It is very full.

But by the time we were done sorting into keep, trash, ebay and donate piles, we had gotten rid of two large boxes worth of stuff. Which meant that the lone rubbermaid container that didn't fit into the closet does now!

I think I will also have us splurge on some prettier recyclable containers we can keep in the entry way so I don't have to squeeze past them every night/morning. Then we can take a trip to visit my brother to see Austin and give him back his stuff and we will have our bedroom back! Considering how steep the cost of redecoratitis can sometimes be, I think Craig will have gotten off pretty cheaply. Which is good, because there is no insurance for it.

24, Season 7: 1-2 PM

Ah, here we go once again with my random reactions. First, how did Bill and Chloe find the buried-alive Agent Walker? Is Jack still wearing that comm unit, allowing them to overhear him?

You know, this African bad guy, Dubaku, is a moron. "Kill our best operative, I want to keep the diamonds." "The President hasn't responded to my demands in the last 20 minutes, let's launch more attacks." And stupidest of all, he's physically in the US. Couldn't he run this whole thing from a satellite phone on his yacht or something? Good thing he has a lot of operatives who are smarter than him, yet evil and greedy.

Madam President: "I want to speak personally to all first responders." Sure, I'll set up a conference call. This continues the president as micro-manager theme we've seen this season.

When the bad guys start talking to the pilots over the radio, don't the pilots notice that the air traffic controllers all of a sudden have different voices? Unless the bad guys wait until the precise moment the pilots switch between zones or something, but I don't see that happening.

Chloe: "I'm a stay-at-home mom." So we know that her pregnancy went well, but we still haven't seen the kid. Is it at grandma's right now?

You know, the previews at the end of the show sure give away a lot (as do the backs of the DVD cases, for that matter). We know that Dubaku will be located next week. Does that mean the threat will be over, and the rest of the season will be devoted to uncovering the government conspiracy? It would be like last year, when the nukes were neutralized after 17 hours, leaving 7 hours to do other things. But there are still 18 hours left this season, so I suspect someone will get away with the hacking device, and the team will have to chase them around. Or maybe we'll get to go back to Africa and catch up with sniveling UN guy and weaselly diplomat with sideburns. Or maybe the President will coercively interrogate her Cabinet members, like President Palmer did back in the 1st season.

See you next week.


Targeting your audience

I was watching the Duggar wedding special tonight when a commercial for the plan b emergency contraceptive came on. That seems like failure to understand your target audience.


Props to Me

I would say that this post is more self-centered than typical, but really, aren't most blogs generally pretty self-centered? Anyone, there are several things that I am proud of myself for this week so I though I would share.

1) We both had off Monday so we wanted to do something fun. After racking our brains, the best we could come up with was Waco! Okay, so it isn't the coolest place but we did have fun. We went to two museums, a natural history museum and the Dr. Pepper museum. But the props to me part? I left my camera at home and just enjoyed spending time with my husband. I love taking pictures but sometimes you just have to live in the moment. I wasn't sure if I would be able to hand it, but I did.

2) We ate a lot of weird veggies this week. Monday we had roasted turnips, parsnip and rutabagas. They ended up kinda mushy but I think that is method not vegetable related (roasted them in the crockpot while we were off and about on Monday) and all three were pretty good although I had a hard time telling the difference between the turnips and rutabagas once they were in roasted squares. Actually I had a hard time telling the differnce between them at all, the recipe only called for rutabagas but I bought turnips by mistake. Stores really should label them better. I feel pretty confident that I could easily add one of them into my normal roasted veggie meals with ease.

I also added some cabbage to my normal stir fry recipe. Now cabbage isn't really a crazy vegetable but I don't think I have made a meal containing cabbage in over a year so I'm counting it. Overall, that New Year's Resolution are going well.

3) I went to the "women's" doctor. This shouldn't be a big deal but I haven't actually been since the check-up I had 6 month's before I got married. Yes, that would make it 2.5 years ago. But I really don't like any doctor and to give myself some credit I had insurance issues these last 6 months so I couldn't really get it done until now.

Sidenote A) I got to the hospital complex but had no idea where I was supposed to go so naturally, I asked the help desk. The little old lady with the volunteer pin had me repeat myself 3 times then finally sent me to the basement. I thought that was an odd place to house the women's center and when I got there, it just didn't seem right. Then I saw the sign for "Wound Center." Now, not only do I feel like I properly enuciated, you would think she would use context clues to help her out. I was a women and not bleeding profusely, so women's center would seem more likely.

Sidenote B) Once down in the basement, I got really lost. I asked a nurse but she didn't know where it was so she found two other (female) nurses and none of them knew. By this time I was a little worried because shouldn't one of the three women at least know where it was. I mean, it's like a mom working at a hospital not knowing where the pediatricians are? Did it have such a bad reputation that hospital employees won't go there? Finally, a security guard overheard us and volunteered to show me where it was, which led to some interesting conversations about his tour in Vietnam and President Obama.

Sidenote C) I sat across from the sonogram room while waiting between the blood pressure part and the actual seeing a doctor part and that is a great place to sit. A couple came out and the guy was super excited because they were having a boy. I was the first person he saw so of course he had to tell me, and every single person he saw as they were leaving. I could still hear him out in the waiting room telling everyone "it's a boy, yep, another boy, oh man, I'm going to have my own basketball team..." It was adorable. Overall, it was a very unique doctor's visit.


Quick Hits

1. Shoppers at Circuit City are "irate" because prices at the liquidating franchise's stores aren't discounted enough for them:
"I was looking for a printer, but 10% off -- I can do better online," said Alan Silverman, 61, at the L.A. Circuit City store. "It's not like I expect them to give it away, but I would expect to see more attractive prices that are competitive."
So now people are entitled to low prices? Good grief. One of the liquidating firm's CEO said it well:
"Customers who say 10% isn't enough for me, they're free to walk out and come back when the discounts are greater," he said. "If they're lucky, the merchandise will still be there."
2. The LA Times says there were "cracks" in the farewell to George Bush yesterday:
On the drive to Capitol Hill, the current and future presidents passed protesters carrying signs reading "Arrest Bush." When Bush entered the grandstand with the band playing "Hail to the Chief" for the last time, the crowd below began singing a different refrain: "Hey, Hey, Good-bye." One man waved his shoe.
Those aren't "cracks." That's just "lack of class."

3. The "Ultra-Realistic Sculpture" exhibit at A&M's Stark Gallery is pretty neat.

WFMW: Knit/Crochet help

When I paid $15 for a beginner knitting class, I figured I would at least learn to cast on, knit, purl and cast off but no such luck. Then after the class she told me I was going to need four or more lessons to finish learning "just the basics." Well, I thought about how much yarn I could buy for $60 and decided I was going to try and see what I could get from a book.

Some things I got right away but there were those frustrating moments in between when I just couldn't figure out what they were trying to say. I needed to see the motion. I had been Googling stitches to read different explanations if I was stuck but once the little search box was set to YouTube not Google and I didn't notice.

It was perfect. There are a number of different videos of each stitch and you can watch them repeatedly until you figure it out. You can also see different ways of doing the same thing. Because I had already done crochet, I find continental-style knitting more natural but most of the written descriptions I found were for English style. It is hard enough trying to learn something new without having to adapt it at the same time so I love being able to view both methods. And it isn't just the basics; try searching for specialty stitches or different methods of casting on, there are so many things out there to learn from. While I already know the basics of crochet, there are lots of videos for that too. And at a cost of nothing, it beats expensive lessons any day and it definitely works for me.


Netflix Nuances

Having a little extra time this weekend led Craig and I to sign up for a free trial with Netflix. After making up our queue, I came to a realization.

My list:
1 documentary
1 political "mock"umentary
3 parts of a presidential biographical mini-series
2 movies made in 1940

My realization:
We are nerds.

24, Season 7: 12-1 PM


The torture conversation continued this week, as people from the DOJ came in to talk to Agent Walker about her coercive treatment of the man in the hospital bed. Wow, they want to investigate one hour after the incident happened, and in the middle of a major crisis. Easy, boys. Here, boss man Agent Moss gave the standard "torture doesn't work" argument. I am highly skeptical of a blanket statement that it never works. Torture, and what constitutes it, is largely an ethical argument, but whether it works or not is an empirical question that we can explore. It may not be the best form of interrogation, and it's surely not called for in very many cases, but I could easily find examples of it working in the past.

MacKenzie argues that the scene in which the PM and his wife were gassed out of the safe room constitutes the first big stupid woman moment of this season. Knowing that maltreatment at the hands of the bad guys was waiting for them on the other side of the door, which would lead to them giving up the names of rebel associates, Mr. PM said they should stay put and die. But Mrs. PM defied him and crawled over and opened the door before she choked to death on the poison gas. I'm not so sure I'd classify this event that way, though. In her state of panic and distress, she wasn't able to thoughtfully consider her options. Plus, there's a chance the FBI could rescue them; they were on the way to the house (slowly). I won't go so far as to label her as one of 24's dumb women at this time.

We have another inappropriate romance candidate, as Shawn at the FBI, who pretended to be a senior agent to get his wife's plane to the front of the landing queue, appears to be having a fling with colleague Erica. Interoffice love is typical on the show, but the cheating angle adds a new twist. Janeane Garofalo, we learn, is on to Moss' infatuation with Walker, and Shawn is rightly worried that she'll figure him out, too. These FBI staffers are still in that murky area in which we are unsure of their loyalties.

Remember in past seasons when CTU could track moving vehicles via satellite, and could even rewind the satellite footage to see what happened previously? Why can't our fictional FBI do that to find the giant, yellow, completely inconspicuous truck that departed the State Department house with Jack, the PM, and Agent Walker on board?

At the end of the hour, Jack had to pretend to kill Agent Walker. He didn't just shoot over her shoulder, oh no. He nicked her neck in the process, to produce blood to make it look real. Only Jack can use a gun so precisely. While we were led to believe she remains alive, I am informed by Blogs 4 Bauer that this scene was accompanied by a silent clock, which is rare, and generally accompanies poignant scenes of death. Could she be dead so early in the season? With Bill, Tony, and Chloe around, she may be expendable. Personally, I think we'll still be seeing her.


Don't Have to Be There

I keep seeing these stories about how people just have this deep, instinctive, unbearable yearning to attend the inauguration. I find it annoying.
Some are going for their children, some for their parents, others because of a longing to be a part of something greater than themselves.
This really isn't about Obama to me. Imagine one of these people telling their kids in 15 years that they attended the inauguration. I suspect the response would be something like this:

"Wait, so you went to Washington, spent hundreds of dollars per night on a hotel room, and stood outside for 8 hours in an 18-degree wind chill 5 blocks from the ceremony, watching it on a giant video screen? And you were 20 rows away from the parade route? And you could have watched the whole thing on TV? What, you didn't even have a ticket when you got there? And you won't let me go to the Jonas Brothers (or whoever) concert this weekend? Whatever!"

Not a great way to impress your kids.


Picture Perfect Parents

Well, no one seemed to see anything weird, which is good. I did quite a bit of work on that picture and I wanted to make sure it wasn't obvious. The problem with spending an hour looking at one picture is that you loose the ability to objectively view it.

And actually, it isn't one picture, it's two. These two to be exact.
Over Christmas break, I had the chance to take some shots of my mom and dad. I got some nice ones of my dad and some lovely ones of my mom. Unfortunately, I didn't get one picture of them both looking nice. So I improvised.

My dad's hair would have made it easier to move his head, but the rope was in the way so I used my mom. I lassoed my mom's head, using a feather of 4. Then I pasted it onto the second picture. When I initially moved the head into place, some of the original hair showed through. Now my mom loves a lot of things about Texas but big hair isn't really her thing so I used the clone stamp to turn the hair back into the background. You can see it looks a tad odd around her head but most of that will be invisible when the second head is placed.
So lets do that.
Ah, much better. When it comes to portraits, two heads are not better than one. Now I merged the images before doing my saturation and lighting edits. I boosted the color with color curves, dodged up some sports, sharped areas and finished up with a nice crop job and voila!
Obviously, this is more work than you would want to do on every picture. But for certain shots, I think it's worth it.


The 'Rents

Aren't they cute? But does anyone notice anything odd about this picture?

UHF: Fermentation Failure

Back on my New Years Resolution post, I said I would talk about my fermentation so I suppose I must. It was a discouraging year but after some research I have determined what went wrong in each case and I feeling better about trying again now.

This was one of the odd things I first heard about from the Nourishing Traditions books and immediately rode off as being too strange to consider but have since changed my mind about. Basically, the point of eating fermented, or cultured, food is to help build up the good bacteria in your body, just like those yogurt commercials keep telling you. It's not just good for your digestive track, but your overall health. One way to get them is probiotic supplements, but I'd rather get it from food.

Some of the more normal foods that contain cultures are most yogurts, buttermilk, Kimchi, and traditional sauerkraut and pickles (but not the canned stuff, they are either made differently or those little guys are now dead). I like yogurt and eat a fair amount of it, but don't get enough Kimchi or buttermilk to make a difference in my health so last fall, I tried to make some things on my own. Most of the recipes are just vegetables that are pounded to release juice. Then some salt is added to keep bad bacteria from growing until the good stuff takes root. Lacto-fermentation involves the addition of whey to jump start the good guys but supposedly lead to a mushy end result so I stayed clear of that.

First try - Sauerkraut. Supposedly sauerkraut is a good first time cultured food. The recipe is just cabbage, salt, and time. It definitely started fermenting and seemed to be working just fine but when we tasted it, it was super salty. Apparently the recipe was supposed to read 3 tsps but there was a typo that had it reading 3 tablespoons. And on top of that the Nourishing Traditions recipes tend to run on the salty side even when written correctly. I tried rinsing and replacing the brine but it was still way to salty to eat.

Outcome - Failure! But not really my fault and I think I could easily make it again with much better results. But since then Craig has discovered he doesn't like it and I like it but only heated and every once in a while. I don't see myself eating even a few tablespoons cold every day.

Second try - Pickles. We loved pickles and so when I saw Alton Brown make a tradition pickle recipe I had to give it a try. I haven't ever had a Alton Brown recipe not work so I was very optimistic. However the two options for storing it while it was growing were either a cold cellar area or a cooler sytem thing he described. Our apartment in Texas in August was just too darn hot. Even with a cooler I couldn't keep it cool enough. We started getting a lot of scum forming that while wasn't truly harmful, gave me the creeps. So we moved it to the fridge before we probably should have. When we cut into them, they were only half pickled, the inside was still a cuke.

Outcome - Failure! This one was more time consuming but I think could end up being something we like. However, Texas in the summer just isn't the right place to make them. And for cruel irony, the weather is now perfect and I could probably leave them on our porch to culture but I can't get pickling cucumbers in January! I'll try again if I ever have a place with a basement.

Sourdough - While it is a culture food, it obviously is baked so it loses much of the fermented benefits. It still has lots of good enzymes and is supposed to be more digestible due to the soaking. Besides, it just tastes good. The recipe I used had two ways to make it, one by hand and one that used a bread machine. Despite my previous failures, I was optimistic. But again, the weather bit me in the butt. I didn't add any sugar so from what I have read, I shouldn't have had a problem with my started getting exhausted too quickly but it did. On top of my starter was a layer of alcohol and the poor guys suffocated. I can only blame the heat for causing it to grow too much too fast.

Outcome - Failure! If I try sourdough again I will probably buy a started and just keep it going. But I won't until I am somewhere for a while and have the ability to keep up with it.

Next time: I am going to try again. I will start with fermented salsa. Basically, you make pico de gallo, adding a little extra salt to prevent bad guys from growing and leave it on the counter for a couple days. The point of most of the fermented veggies recipes is to eat a small amount (like a garnish) everyday. I can't really see doing that with ginger carrots or sauerkraut but I can see us eating salsa quite frequently. Also, if we don't like fermented salsa, I really don't think we will like any fermented veggies so I can just give up if this fails. But it won't. I'm feeling good about it.

Another option on the lacto side of fermentation that I want to try someday is Kefir. It's like a drinkable yogurt that is slightly sour and bubble. I like the Kefir you buy at the store but not only is it kinda expensive, but it is also full of sugar and artificial flavors. It doesn't sound that difficult to make your own if I could just get past the weirdness of the "grains" although I don't think I will even consider doing this until we are in a more stable location.

So that should fully convinced you that I am a hippie, I mean I want to grow my own edible bacteria! But if it hasn't, you at least now I am stubborn. Or determined. Yeah, determined sounds much better.


Ghost of Christmas Crafts

I almost forgot to show you all all the Christmas crafts I made! We were on a pretty tight budget this year but I think it ended up being a good thing. I had to really think hard to come up with a project that would fit the person instead of just buying something. If the pictures look very square, it's because Craig was so kind as to take them before he did all the wrapping.

For my mother I made pot holders*. They came out cute but I didn't think it was enough so I used the leftover fabric to embellish dish towels using this Sew Mama Sew tutorial. I will probably make some of these for myself too because no matter how many towels I know I have, I never seem to have enough.
I hadn't decided on my older brother gift but as soon as I saw this fabric, I thought of just the thing. I knew that, as a bachelor, he probably didn't have too much in the way of table linens and he loves to entertain. He also loves Japanese food. I had made this pattern* for place mats before for us, but this time I included a little chopstick pocket (on the right, look closely). They make me wish I liked sushi.
The Beav got the honor of receiving my first piece of crocheted clothing. The pattern was from a book from the library, but after the red line it got weird and really wide. I ended up taking out everything below the red and just winging it to make it a more head-like shape and size. I was worried I would just have to throw it out and start over with a new pattern but after making Craig try it on after every row to see how it looked, I eventually got it. I really like how it turned out but I will never be able to repeat it so it is a truly is a one-of-a-kind piece of work.

The other homemade gift I made was candied nuts for Craig's dad. Craig came up with the idea and I thought they would be difficult to make but they ended up being really simple and so delicious. The night I made the test batch we ended up having some friends over and they were gone in about 10 minutes. I filled two mason jars with the nuts and had planned on fancing up the jars with Christmas cloth but Craig had to mail them before I recovered from the flu so that didn't happen although I don't think his dad probably even noticed. That is the nice thing about giving things to guys, they don't care about the packaging as much.

*These two items came from Lotta Jansdotter's Simple Sewing. I have liked everything I made from that book. Like the title suggests, the projects are simple but that is good for me since I had done a lot of piecing and quilting with my machine, but not much with patterns. If you have done more than 4 or 5 sewing projects, you would probably find it below your level but for beginners, it's pretty good.


What to Buy?

Being as it is my anniversary, I thought I'd look at the list of traditional gifts for each year, to know what to look for. Well, apparently some women got ahold of the list, because the gifts have changed, and the new ones cost much more. For example, the second year gift was once cotton, but now it's china. Next year, I'm supposed to buy crystal instead of the traditional leather. I'm not going to stand for this! It's cotton for you, MacKenzie; maybe a nice T-shirt or something.

Actually, I skipped ahead to the old year eleven gift: steel. Don't laugh; she liked it:

Happy Anniversary, MacKenzie. May our marriage outlast our cookware.

24, Season 7: 10 AM - 12 PM

Beware of spoilers.

I think Janeane Garofalo has been appointed the official poster child for the weak, by-the-book tactics of our fictional FBI. This would be appropriate, given her way liberal outlook on life. First, after putting a couple of those vital-sign readers on Tony's chest in the interrogation room, she asked him, "Is this comfortable for you?". I'm sure terrorist suspects get asked that a lot. Later, in the hospital with another suspect, she complained that Agent Walker was "breaking like 50 laws" by being in the room. Rather than explore harsh interrogation in a nuanced manner, 24 so far is setting up a dichotomy between those who are protecting the country and those who are ninnies. But Agent Walker is coming over to Jack's side, with her pinch-the-breathing-tube bit. Looks like those 2.5 hours with Jack made an impression on her.

It is interesting to wonder why someone like Garofalo would come to this show, which is seen as a rather right-leaning operation. Could unemployment have been her reason?

I was reminded of another 24 truism today: never go to the server room alone. Bad stuff always happens down there. In fact, stay out of basements in general. However, Sean left Garofalo's character, Janis, unharmed. This time.

We had a good little cyber-duel between Janis and our old friend Chloe. Chloe was hacking into the FBI, Janis was trying to keep her out. Janis won round one, but Chloe came back strong in round two. It seemed to me that Janis was acting a lot like Chloe, but maybe all female IT people are socially awkward in 24 and/or in real life. Also, wasn't Chloe pregnant at the end of last season? Where are we on that?

Is that Keifer Sutherland doing the narration on the Bank of America ad? I think it is.

The show is hinting that the President's Chief of Staff, Ethan, is in on the evil conspiracy. This show seems to try to fake us out a lot, though, into thinking good guys are bad. I think that's what's going on here. He's not evil, just weak on foreign policy.

Finally, I get a bad feeling about this Tony-Bill-Chloe operation. It just seems kind of fishy. I also think it was dumb to try to turn Jack into a fake terrorist. He is too well-known to pull this off. Doesn't Dubaku know that Jack was one of the guys that killed his brother in Redemption? I guess we'll find out next week when they meet face-to-face, assuming Jack and Tony successfully capture the Sangalan PM. I think that's a pretty safe assumption.

If you are hungry for even more 24 commentary, check out The (Unofficial) 24 Blog.


24, Season 7: 8-10 AM

Warning: There are probably spoilers in here.

As was indicated in the previews, Jack Bauer begins the show testifying before Congress about "human rights abuses at CTU." He is in no way contrite. He treats the committee chairman with the same contempt I'm sure many real-life witnesses would like to do, and I wish some of them would. Jack says that in torturing some dude to prevent a bus with 45 passengers from being blown up, he completed his mission by adapting to an enemy that does not care about our laws. After telling the chairman not to give him that smug look, he was then pulled from the meeting by an FBI agent to help them with a situation.

The problem in question to start the season is cyber-related. Some people, including Tony Almeida, are able to obtain a device that can penetrate a government firewall that protects infrastructure such as energy, utilities, and transportation. Now, in real life, the federal government does not have control over all of this stuff, so it wouldn't be behind one firewall. But I'll let that slide. The terrorists are able to create a near-plane crash to demonstrate what they can do. They then turn their device over to a man we met in Redemption, a leader of the military coup in a fictional African country that the President prepares to send troops to as the episode unfolds.

Now that he's with the FBI, we start to have conflict between Jack's extra-legal methods and the Bureau's by-the-book procedures. But his new partner, Agent Walker, uses the fact that a certain suspect knows about Jack's methods to threaten him, while letting Jack know he won't be allowed to hurt anyone. With the suspect, Jack ultimately grabs a pen and goes for the perp's eyeball when he won't talk to them, and the bad guy immediately opens up. The conflict between Jack and the FBI clearly will continue. But as we can see, Jack has not changed his ways.

However, later on in the show, he opines to an FBI agent that his methods need to come out publicly. He states that people need to know about what he has done and the results he realized, in order to decide what is appropriate. This is the argument made by one of my professors, Jim Olson, in his book Fair Play: The Moral Dilemmas of Spying. In this book, he describes actual operations and explores the moral questions that arise (e.g. should we get a hooker for one of our Russian spies?).

One recurring theme I mentioned in my preview post was inappropriate romance. Indeed, it seems like Agent Walker's boss displays extra-professional concern for her throughout the evening, although nothing overt occurs. We'd better watch those two.

A recurring theme I neglected to mention was the presence of moles inside the government. Sure enough, we met an FBI agent who was working with the terrorists, and helped one escape.

Interestingly, at this point we know who the main antagonists are, but we don't know what exactly the threat is; what they'll do with their new toy. But I'm sure we'll find out soon.

We may also find out why Tony did what he did, since he has been captured and may get some of the old Jack Bauer treatment. Did he want revenge for his wife's death? And will Jack be allowed to, and emotionally able to, inflict pain on his old friend?

Finally, I think we'll get to see tomorrow the much-hyped scene where Jack drives a car off an upper floor of a parking ramp while telling himself, "This is going to hurt." I bet it will.


Because he's our favorite president...or not.

Our trip to/from my 'rents home took us right through Little Rock, Arkansas. Even though we aren't Clinton's biggest fans, we in the BRC household really like our presidential libaries so I knew we were going to stop. We have been to three together (Bush and Truman are the others) and have each visited Johnson but hadn't been to any new ones since before we started dating so adding another to the list was long overdue.

But we hadn't planned on going to Clinton's boyhood home. I was sleeping when we passed through Hope and Craig made a command decision to stop. We didn't want to spend the time or money to tour the home but we walked through the little museum area, followed by a very enthusiastic docent who insisted on explaining a variety of items and pictures to us. He had one of the strongest southern accents I have ever heard so I had to smile when he mentioned that Craig had a little bit of an accent. Luckily he was about to take our picture so he probably didn't notice I was laughing at him.

He first took a picture of us with the bust of Clinton and then insisted we take a picture on the half sized replica of the oval office rug. It was the first time we have ever been mistaken for Clinton groupies and I am pretty sure it will be the last. Overall, it was a very entertaining stop.

Then on the way back as planned we stopped at the Clinton library. We didn't spend as long as we probably would have because I was still feeling sick but I had already forced Craig to give up his Mammoth Cave stop (stomach flu + two hours hiking in a cave with no bathrooms = bad idea) and I couldn't ask him to give up a library. My impressions of the outside were not good. Maybe it was because the weather was rainy and gloomy that day but the outside had the appearance of a prison.Once inside, we skipped the orientation video and headed straight to the Cabinet room.
Here's Craig trying his best to look presidential. The rest of the second floor was a time line with alcoves highlighting the policies and key events of his presidency. It was much more political than your typical presidential library
and truthfully, kinda boring. But that wasn't the main reason I didn't like the second floor. Since Clinton's library is so new, they pumped it full of a/v methods of showcasing the information. Normally I like that type of thing in a museum (Winston Churchill's museum in London did a great job with that) but this time it didn't work. Most of the alcoves had one or two tvs with footage with an accompanying soundtrack playing. The main timeline running down the middle of the room had audio as well. It was overwhelming. At times I could hear three different Bills speaking at once. I think even Democrats would have a hard time listening to that. And with all the screens playing, they still lacked interactive stops, and places to sit. I'm a big fan of seats in museums. With my dad, brother and husband as my typical museum buddies, I find them to be quite useful.

Between boredom, nausea and vertigo from the audio, I did manage to make it through the impeachment alcove due to my sheer willpower and desire to see how it was address before taking a seat on the steps while Craig finished.
The third floor was slightly better. It had all the state gifts, which are fun. There were also two or three shadow boxes illustrating "life in the white house" and a couple little things on his early years but not very much compared to your typical presidential libary and those are the parts I like best.
Then there was the Oval office replica. Unlike the cabinet room, we were not able to enter this room, just look from behind the ropes and take pictures. I'm pretty sure all the the other libraries I have been to have allowed you to enter and take your picture at the desk so I thought the ropes were lame but I suppose they are afraid of people posing in not nice ways. But really, couldn't they could just put a guard there. After that I was about to collapse, so we finished up.

To recap, it was a disappointment. I know I am probably slightly biased since he isn't exactly my favorite president, but I don't think I would have liked the library even if I did like him as a person.

New Feature: 24 Blogging

With less than two hours to go before the premiere of Season 7 of 24, I am going to debut a new feature here on the blog. I will provide a reaction to each episode the day after it airs; look for it every Tuesday (unless I quit doing it). As usual, the season begins with 2 episodes today and 2 more tomorrow. This week, I will respond with one post for each night of episodes. There will surely be spoilers all season, so be warned.

This will the the first season of 24 I have watched as it aired. I joined the craze late, and have watched all previous seasons on DVD. I will also have MacKenzie watching with me (awww!).

We know going into the new season that:
  • The creator of 24, Joel Surnow, is no longer involved in the show.
  • CTU, the agency Jack Bauer et. al worked for, has been disbanded.
  • In the mini-episode that aired in November, Redemption, Jack agreed to answer a subpoena from Congress (to answer for his torturous deeds) in exchange for getting a bunch of African kids admitted to the US to keep them from being forced into war.
  • We have a lady president now (just in time for Hillary's inauguration- oh, wait).
  • Tony Almeida, former high-up in CTU who died in Season 5, is no longer dead, and he's a bad guy. People coming back to life, and good people turning bad, are recurring themes on 24.
  • Jack will be working with the FBI as the season starts (part of the agency's hiring blitz?).
Along with the aforementioned themes, there are some other common 24 themes to look for as the new season begins:
  • Dumb women. Not to be sexist or anything, but we frequently see women on the show doing dumb things, which often put them in danger.
  • Inappropriate romances, especially of the supervisor/subordinate type. Recall in Season 3 that Tony gave in to terrorist demands after they captured his coworker/lover.
  • Jack's emotional angst over the torture he has inflicted, the things he has seen, and the loved ones he has lost/been estranged from occasionally bubbles to the surface.
Also, it will be interesting to note the role of torture this season. As enhanced interrogation techniques have been demonized here in the real world, and 24 has been criticized for glorifying torture, we will see what role it has, and how Jack feels about it now. There is some conservative concern that the show will be soft this year. The proper portrayal of the UN official in Redemption as a spineless, morally-equivocating coward gives me hope that this will not be the case.

Should be a fun season.


Make the Switch...Please

When I heard about the transition from analog to digital TV broadcast, I figured that, despite the $40 coupons and massive ad campaign, there would be chaos once the deadline approached. People would procrastinate, or they wouldn't understand, and they'd raise hell when they lost their TV signal. Well, it looks like that's what's happening. Many lawmakers, including Obama, want a delay in the big switch. Reasons cited are unavailable coupons and insufficient education.

I don't know about you, but I'm tired of seeing the commercials about this. I was excited for the upcoming Feb. 17 deadline because the commercials would end, similar to why I eagerly await election day. In fact, instead of making candidates say "I approve this message" in their ads, they should have had to say "don't forget to buy a TV converter box" or something, and kill two ugly birds with one stone.

But today, I can't imagine who is unaware of the switch, just like I can't fathom being undecided a week before election day. There have been national commercials and local campaigns, which target those most likely to need converter boxes by advertising on 60 Minutes, Matlock, and the 6:00 news. Yet here we are. And they wouldn't have run out of coupons if the government hadn't sent two of them to everybody. I wonder if I can sell my extra one on E-bay? Probably not.


Tea for two...I mean six.

Growing up, I never considered the fact that my dad was in the military especially cool or neat or whatever word we used back then. It was just the way it was. And everyone I was friends with was also a military brat or was friends with a lot of them so they didn't think it was anything out of the ordinary either. But when I got to college, I realized that other people had interesting ideas about how I must have been raised; most seemed to imagine me growing up in some sort of pre-Maria Von Trapp family household complete with bed inspections and a dad that barked orders at us. After I stopped laughing, I tried to set them straight. Don't get me wrong, my dad is certainly not a girly-man and is well respected by his men (and his family) but he isn't a Marine. He wasn't a yeller, didn't require my brothers to have buzz cuts, and he even drinks tea. So when my mom mentioned that she had made reservations for the whole family to go to a tea party, I didn't think anything about it. The first time it was mentioned to Craig, I'm pretty sure he though it was a joke. But he he went along with it, and this is what I imagine he was thinking:

I'm not sure so about this tea thing. It seems a bit girly and I feel silly. Oh wait, there are hats for the ladies to wear if they want...I'm pretty sure MacKenzie wants to wear one, I'll pick one for her.
Much better. I may feel silly but at least I'm not wearing a hat like MacKenzie. Okay, I suppose I am actually going to have to drink some of this. Here goes.
I guess it's not so bad. And look, the boys seem to be having fun too.
But the Beav is just a kid and Rick's a t-sip so what do they know? Although the Colonel is here and he's a real man. I guess that makes it okay.
Maybe tea parties aren't so bad after all.


A Moment Ten Years in the Making

While I'm surely not unique in this regard, I have completed my state quarter collection:

I found a Hawaii quarter in my change today, only two months after it came out. It usually took me 5-6 months to acquire new state coins. In case you were wondering, the phrase on the Hawaii quarter says, "The life of the land is perpetuated in righteousness" and features King Kamehameha I.

Additionally, it looks like my quarter-collecting days might not be over yet:
[C]ollectors looking for a fresh fix should keep eyes peeled next year. That's when quarters will be issued for the left-out District of Columbia, commonwealths of Puerto Rico and the Northern Mariana Islands, and the U.S. territories of Guam, American Samoa and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
That's another laundry-load worth of quarters I'll have to sock away.

Scandalous Old Cartoons

Any fan of Looney Tunes cartoons knows that much of the stuff that happens in them would not fly today. Images of Daffy Duck repeatedly getting shot in the face come to mind. Other cartoons of the period are similarly taboo today, such as Disney's Song of the South.

Today at my substitute job in an elementary music classroom, I led the kids in that classic substitute activity, watching a video. We watched one that contained some slightly objectionable bits, by modern standards. It was called Make Mine Music, which was released in 1946 and includes several musical animated shorts. Along with repeated physical assaults of a fan of the team playing against Mudville in a rendition of "Casey at the Bat," there was a bit entitled "All the Cats Join In."

While you may or may not want to watch the whole thing, I direct your attention to the risque scene that starts at 1:39. The kids quite enjoyed it. In addition, I thought the piece that starts at 4:03 was funny. The kids didn't appreciate its humor (or messages about beauty and self-image) too much, though, from what I could tell.